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TV networks suing Dish Network over commercial-free device

A flurry of federal lawsuits between three of the television networks and a new device being sold by Dish Network could help determine whether TV viewers in Las Vegas will be allowed to watch their favorite shows commercial-free on their DVRs. The lawsuits complain that Dish's new device, the Hopper, violates copyright law by providing a "bootleg" copy of TV shows with the commercials removed.

The networks involved in the television business litigation so far are CBS, Fox and NBC. They filed their suits in federal court on May 24. So far, ABC has not filed a lawsuit of its own.

The Hopper, which Dish began selling on May 10, works by automatically recording primetime shows on the four major networks for later viewing. Included in the DVR is an option called "AutoHop" which allows users to watch a recorded program with the commercials taken out.

NBC, Fox and CBS presented varying arguments against allowing the AutoHop option, but their lawsuits essentially say that Dish is conducting unfair business practices and depriving the networks the advertising revenue that drive the television industry. If viewers choose not to watch commercials, advertisers will stop buying ad time. "Dish simply does not have the authority to tamper with the ads from broadcast replays on a wholesale business," the NBC lawsuit argues.

In response, Dish says that retransmission fees paid by the company to the networks are passed along to the viewer through subscription fees, meaning that Hopper users are paying for free broadcasts. Dish also filed a countersuit asking for a ruling that it is not violating the networks' copyrights on its programming.

Source: CNN, "Broadcasters sue Dish over ad-skipping DVR," David Goldman, May 25, 2012

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